Monday, March 30, 2015

Busy week? But it's only four days!

Where does the time go? We'll know at the end of this week when all the things we're working on will get done.

We have Leadership Day. We have Willy Wonka. We have lots of meetings and other activities, especially preparation for the M-Step. I could think of other names for the test, but I'm too tired and too busy to be glib. The test begins on the 13th with 5th grade. I will get everything ready and we'll see the grand experiment take place the Monday we return from Spring Break.

The best thing about working at Cooper is the staff, hands down. Our ability to rise to challenges has always been a hallmark here. We will get through this week and the other challenges facing us in April and May. June will arrive. We will survive.

"Fasten your seatbelt. It's going to be a bumpy night." ~Margo Channing, in All About Eve

Big Rocks
It's Leadership Day Week! So many staff members have been working hard to organize and prepare for the the event that we should be successful in LD-IV. Thanks especially goes to Nicole for taking on the leadership to organize the event. Lauren also deserves our thanks for all she's doing to get the building ready. There are so many others to thank... We should be proud of our students and our school.

Karen, Sue G., and Colleen S. have the cast ready for Willy Wonka this week. Performances will occur with the main performance Tuesday evening. Watching the practices over the weeks, I've seen incredible improvement. The cast is wonderful. It will be a great show!

A video recording crew from RESA will be in the building to record Sally and her work with teachers as a Literacy Lab. They will be using the conference room and the Cafe.

Week of March 30, 2015:

Monday:       8:00 Spybrook meeting (Title I), CO, Robin
                     3:00 ALT meeting at CO (Sarah and Terry)
                     3:45 Leadership Day prep

Tuesday:       9:00 Leadership Day Practice (Parent audience arrives at 8:30)
                     Terry DDS 2:30 (back right after!)
                     3:45 Lighthouse Team
                     6:30 Willy Wonka production
Wednesday:   8:00 IST
                      9:15 Fire Drill (Last of the year!!!)
                      Leadership Day prep

Thursday:      Leadership Day (guests arrive starting at 8:30)

Friday:           Spring Breaks begins! Happy break!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Making and Breaking Habits

There's a popular theory that if you do something for 21 days you'll form a habit.  This theory is based on the work of Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon from the 1950s.  After observing that many of his patients took roughly 21 days to get used to the results of their operation, he published a book that stated his observation.  His quote started a whole self help movement based on the 21 day theory.

Why do I know this?  I just finished the 21 Day Fix, a work out program where I worked out every day for 21 days.  I feel physically better but also mentally satisfied that I was able to meet my goal.  So I was really hoping that there was some scientific evidence that supported the 21 day theory! Unfortunately, the research I found stated the 21 day idea is a myth.

The formation of a habit has more to do with the person, the behavior, and the circumstances.  Making or breaking of habits can take longer but that's ok.  The research actually reflects what we've seen at Cooper.  The formation of habits is a process not an event.  It is okay to slip up, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and use the strategies you've learned through living the 7 Habits to get back on track.

As I was reflecting on the idea of the 21 day myth and habit formation, I opened the newspaper this weekend to an article in the Parade magazine entitled Breaking Bad Habits.  Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, is now studying habits.  She believes that when thinking about forming a new habit we need to think, "What's everything I could do to set myself up for success?"  She believes that everyone falls into roughly four personality categories: upholder, obliger, questioner, and rebel.  Rubin states that changing habits is possible if we think about how we respond to expectations.  She claims that personality+pairing=success.

Good habits require consistent commitment but no habit is going to be made or broken unless you get started.  What's a new habit you would like to commit to?

  • Greeting students every morning
  • Revisiting Data Notebooks more often
  • Community Meetings
  • Walking at lunch
  • Eating breakfast
  • Writing in a journal
Whether it takes 21 days or 100 days, the only thing to do is to get started.  If you want to find out more about your personality type, visit  For anyone that is interested, I think I'm a pretty classic upholder with a slight swing to the obliger side from time to time.  :)

Week of March 23, 2015:

Monday: 9:00 Student Interview (Terry)

Tuesday: 1:15 Fire Drill
                3:45 Lighthouse

Wednesday: 8:00-3:30 Apple Leadership for Learning (Sarah)
                     3:45 Planning Team
                     6:00 Battle of the Books @FHS

Thursday: 8:00 Staff Meeting
                 8:30-11:30 School Improvement Diagnostics (Sarah, Terry, Robin) @Johnson
                 4:00 Champs Enthusiasm Event

Friday: Elementary Work Day!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

It's About Time. It's all about time...

How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before
it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the
time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

                                                               ~Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss)

The new house my wife and I are building near beautiful Beulah will be named "It's About Time." The double meaning for this name makes so much sense in the big picture. It's certainly about time we got a place in that area where we love to explore and spend time. It's also true that we intend to use the house to spend our time, to create memories with friends and family, and to enjoy our sixties and seventies and beyond. It's about time; it's all about time.

At Cooper, our workdays are also all about time. Last week, Judy and I spent time scheduling the labs for M-Step. We doubled our use of time by also helping in the center at the same time we were scheduling (thank you Judy!). We are in the midst of the time that is left in the year. One more marking period, less than  three months remaining, fewer than 50 days of school time left with these students in their current grades. How did it get so late so soon? 

What do we have left to do with our time?  Some things that come to mind are:  student and teacher surveys, evaluations, iReady testing, EDM testing, M-Step testing, and end of year evaluations, including final F&P testing . We also have 4th grade transitions, Leadership Day (April 2!), a memorial service and celebration for Susie, two report cards to complete, school improvement plan, Camp Emerson planning and invitations (due to renovations at Emerson, we're hosting at Cooper this summer), Field Day, and end of the year field trips and celebrations, including sixth grade send off. I'm sure I missed more than a few things.

It makes me a little tired writing that paragraph. And I don't write it to make you crazy, although you may feel overwhelmed. I write this to help us focus on the time. It's about time; it's all about time.

With all we are doing, we are still going to do all the other activities in our responsibilities: child care, laundry, house care, and even some recreation (think spring break, Memorial Day weekend!). Wow! We're really going to be ready for summer!

In the meantime, however, I'm looking for help getting through our many obligations and what seems like an overwhelming amount of work. I am turning to my support systems. I have two accountability partners. I have the 7 Habits and my processes for using them. I can keep my sanity (easy on the comments, please!) by maintaining a focus on Habit 7. We can all help each other by following the following:

  • Schedule the week in advance with an accountability partner
  • Include activities that enhance the four human dimensions (Mind, Body, Heart, Spirit)
  • Consider the roles we play, all the relationships we have, and the goals of our missions
  • Schedule the Big Rocks first
  • Eliminate or at least reduce quadrant IV activities (time wasters such as excessive TV, etc.)
  • When feeling overwhelmed, seek solutions from friends and colleagues (we're all in this together!)

Sarah wrote last week (see previous blog) that I am becoming more reflective as the months slide toward retirement. She is certainly correct. With fewer than 100 calendar days left in this career, I am noticing the eminent imminent mental shift has begun. I am staying focused on the work, and looking ahead as well. I am so happy there is no surgery happening during the balance of the school year to keep me from being with all of you as we complete another truly successful school year.

We have much to do and limited time to do it. We will all get through this together and then plan our futures as we relax in June. Remember, it's about time.

"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages..."
                                                         ~William Shakespeare, from "All the World's a Stage"
Big Rocks:
  • A note about the knee surgery that isn't: After my scheduled surgery was postponed from January, it was rescheduled for April 14. Then the surgeon was not going to make it back in time, so another surgeon was consulted. In a consultation with this new person, he did not recommend surgery. I went to another doctor for a fourth opinion. He also said to wait. He has some other ideas for helping my knee in the meantime. So I'm getting some cortisone therapy and physical therapy and will not be having surgery in the foreseeable future. This has been great news for me as I can finish the school year as I'd wanted to do, get my boat in the water and my new house squared away. On top of that, I'm walking better than I have in the past couple of years, so I am very happen with the strategy so far. I've lost a little faith in doctors along the way, but I'm ecstatic that I'm not having surgery and that I'm walking better.
  • Our QAR visit seems to have gone successfully. We don't have the report yet. We'll share it at the staff meeting Thursday morning. Danielle Daniels will join us at our staff meeting. A big thanks to Lynn, Nicole, Wendy, Robin, and Kathy N. They all represented our school very well in the presentation portion. The team of four LPS administrators expressed high regard for Cooper and the work we're doing. They visited nearly all classrooms, some more than once. Thank you all for enduring the stress that comes with having others in your room. They were very gracious and impressed with our students and staff. Sarah deserves a big thanks also, as she created a great slide show and made sure we were as ready as we could be for the visit.
  • It is important to remember that the Staff Lounge needs to be secure from students, especially during lunch times. When fifth grade is at lunch, sixth graders are entering the lounge to get printer materials or refrigerated items for their teachers. Please respect the teachers that are at lunch or on a break in the Lounge. Have students come at a different time than the staff lunch, and instruct students to always knock and wait for permission before entering the Lounge.
  • We had another successful Walk-a-thon last Friday. A big thanks to all staff who stayed to help out. Our staff turnout was tremendous! Check our Facebook page for pics as Judy and I were posting. Thanks to Lauren for her organization as well as all of her great work getting the windows ready and the ideas out there. The Work-a-thons are a real joint effort by so many staff members, students, and parents. It's a great event and our school is really coming along with the re-decorating that's going on!
  • There will be a survey sent to you about coloring hair for spirit days in a separate email. We are trying to figure out where staff members are on this issue. Our feeling inthe office that as long as the hair is not distracting to the class, we are okay with temporary hair changes. Please let us know how you feel. The survey has just two questions.
  • Speaking of perceptions, the students will be asked their perceptions during the week at various times. We will try to get your class out and back to you as quickly as possible. Sarah or I will be getting them and administering the students surveys.
  • We will have a short assembly during LEAD TIME. The assembly will be for all students in the gym at 8:45. We will release students to complete committee/ teams work at 9:00.
  • Shawn is having her baby as this is being written (Saturday night). We will keep you informed as soon as news and baby arrive. Very exciting!!

Week of March 16th:

Monday:           7:30 Breakfast with Randy (Terry)
                           1:00 Reading In Content Areas mtg @ CO (Sarah)

Tuesday:          LEAD TIME Assembly in gym at 8:45
                             3:45 Lighthouse

Wednesday:     8:00 IST Meeting
                             3:45 Planning team
                             6:00 Susie Memorial Committee meeting in LMC

Thursday:         8:00 Staff Meeting (QAR review)
                            10:00 DSIT Climate Committee (Sarah)
                             1:00 EPM (Terry and Sarah)
                             6:30 PTA Meeting
Friday:               8:00 Book Club    

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Gift of Time

We've been reflecting on time a lot the last few weeks.  It seems like it's slipping away from us.  It's March already and prime teaching time.  Yet with M-Step, i-ready, EDM, and student perception surveys, actual instructional time seems to be limited.  We are being asked to take some things off people's plates.  If there are ways we can help you with this, please let us know.  We are always inspired by your thinking.

Sean Covey said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."  Are we staying true to our mission of Learning and Leading?  Are we remembering to put deposits in each other's bank accounts?  We are faced with many things over the next few months that are not in our control.  We realize that it is crucial to staff and student happiness that we are thoughtful and intentional with dealing with what is in our control.

Time is precious.  That fact is not lost on me as two of my favorite people celebrate their birthdays this week.  Carys is turning nine on Tuesday.  There is something about the baby that made you a mom.  Her name means "to love" and she makes me proud everyday.  I was speaking to her principal the last week and he said, "That girl is going to rule the world some day."  She is an amazing human being who is growing up so fast.  We must lot lose sight that we are raising human beings.  Not test takers.  We are privileged to play crucial roles in children's lives.  Although the days and weeks seem long, we all know that it will soon be June.  Time is precious.  Time is fleeting.  Let us be intentional in how we use it.

Carys at one.

Carys 8 years 363 days old 

Finally, Happy Birthday Terry!  I know time is constantly on Terry's mind lately as he reflects on his legacy with Livonia Public Schools.  This is precious time that we all have left together.  Let us not lose sight of our relationships in the midst of some of this madness.

Big Rocks:
Our QAR visit is Wednesday.  A big thank you to Wendy, Lynn, Kathy N, Robin, Judy, and Nicole for meeting on Friday to prepare for our visit.  We have such good thinkers on our team.  We are prepared for a great day!

Work-a-thon is this Friday from 4-6.  We can use many helping hands.  If you can join us, we would love to have you.

A big thank you to everyone who stayed on Wednesday night for Family Game Night with Learning Gizmos.  We received many compliments from the Learning Gizmos staff on our staff who were willing to learn the games and have fun rather than be on their cell phones.  Apparently, that is a big problem for their training sessions!  We also received many compliments from families who enjoyed spending time together and going home with some new games.  Thank you for your time and dedication!

Week of March 9th:

Monday: 1:00 Data Dig (Terry)
Tuesday: 8:00 Center EPT
                3:45 Lighthouse
Wednesday: 8:00-12:00 QAR visit
                      3:45 Planning team
                      6:00 6th Grade Music Presentations
Thursday:  LIM Symposium
                    1:00-3:00 DSIT (Sarah)
                    2:00 Tornado Drill
                    3:45 Extended Staff Meeting Grade Level Collaboration
                    6:00 Parent Lighthouse
Friday: Spring Pictures
              9:30-11:00 i-ready Webinar (Robin)
              4:00-6:00 Work-a-thon